HUE-guh. Hygge. It’s fun to say – but what does it mean?
Hygge is a Danish term which, without direct translation, can be felt as an environment that is inclusive, cozy, and focused on well-being. For some it is a lifestyle; influencing the activities, interactions, and spaces one adopts on a daily basis. Hygge has become an international phenomenon reaching across the globe to influence and connect with practices in other cultures. In short, hygge is a means for warmth and interconnectivity.
This year I’ve rebranded my classroom as the Hygge House, using the concept as a framework for supportive instruction, collaboration, and celebration. My students and I belong there, it’s our place, and this identity enveloped the learning environment in unexpected and delightful ways.
But first, how it started.
During my much warmer, drier, and slower-paced summer, the kind of time ripe for drawing new conclusions, this teacher had a realization. Since the need for social and emotional learning (SEL) is science-based and I teach a science class, SEL must become an inextricable component of my instruction.
While I’d consciously built culture into my classroom from day one of my teaching career, this was the first time I pulled out the NGSS and the SEL Standards, side-by-side, to look for connections. It turns out, I’m not the only one to do this.
In one example, in 2007 a consortium launched Frontiers in Urban Science Exploration (FUSE), a strategy for linking authentic science learning through integration of the NGSS and SEL Standards. The authors of this strategy sought a means to enable teachers to deliver science instruction integrated with social and emotional skills, believing the first is improved by the second.
The FUSE method, among others, suggests that when students are doing the work of science, a very NGSS idea, that work can include SEL activities. For example, when building a model to address water pollution, students might reflect and share personal narratives and/or hear those of others to empathize with people who live with poor water quality. As students work on prototypes, naming and encouraging evidence of perseverance builds capacity to continue the practice. Building a cycle of self- and peer-evaluation develops habits of mind leading to continuous learning.
To create the Hygge House, we engaged in, and continue to support, a few key activities:
- We built norms that are a bit out of the ordinary, which means we actually remember and follow them. The students know room 263 runs a little differently and act as tour guides for our guests.
- We work on language when we speak with each other; we value honesty at all times, the practice of rewording miscommunication, and quality listening. This is good science practice and good humanity practice.
- We talk about the people behind our learning. Our “why” in our studies is linked to the people the science affected, affects, or will be affecting. Innovations come from innovators, we cannot have science progress without caring for scientists and those they serve.
- We practice mindfulness. Daily.
- We focus on our strengths as a pathway to working through our challenges. This means we look for the good in each other and find ways to celebrate growth.
Yes we have candles – or rather, LED versions. Yes we read science fiction novels, drink tea, applaud our accomplishments with gusto, and enjoy Breaking Cat News together. We also engage with high level texts, model abstract concepts, consult industry professionals, and utilize engineering practices that students can apply in all manner of future STEM careers – aspects of a strong NGSS curriculum. The integration of SEL, our Hygge House, supports students in bringing their curious, communicative, and competent selves to those careers.
If you are ever in the neighborhood, drop by, we’d love to have you.